FACING A DREADED WRITING PROJECT? School paper, report for work, difficult email, tricky scene in a story? Try this: Mentally choose a person you know (in real life or any fictional hero/ine or historical figure) who would be sympathetic and/or interested in your material or plight.
Now, for the moment, forget the (seemingly impossible) formal requirements of your project. Instead, focus on your imagined friend and start by writing them a letter in which you share with them all your thoughts and ideas and concerns about the topic at hand. (This would be in the nature of a personalized data dump. No pretty turns of phrase required!)
So, for example: If I were feeling stuck explaining the directions to this particular exercise, I might first write it as a note to my friend Jill. As one of my BFFs, Jill is almost always sympathetic. As a writer, she’s almost always interested. (At least in my imagination, which is really all that counts at this moment of my deep stuck-ed-ness!)
Here we go . . .
I’ve got a great exercise to help folks when they’re overwhelmed by a daunting writing assignment or project. I want to tell them they can get tons of words and ideas on the page if they’ll just write everything that comes to mind as if they were writing a friend a free-wheeling letter about the project.
I don’t know if you remember, but I used to do exactly this when we were in college and I was stuck with a deadline on a paper I didn’t want to write! For instance, I might have to report on THE CANTERBURY TALES, and not have a clue about how to start—so I’d write a letter about it to you!
In that quck-scribbled note, I’d dump everything I knew about Chaucer, willy-nilly, including my attitude about him and his wild, winding parade of pilgrims—and my thoughts about my dratted professor.
Once I’d “told” you everything I had in my head, THEN I’d begin to write in earnest. Reviewing what I’d shared with (imagined) you, I’d sort out what was relevant from what wasn’t. Next, I’d organize what was left and add in anything that was missing. And, voila! I had a solid draft. All because I was just writing to you….
Thanks for “listening”! I think I can take it from here!
Even if this feels simplistic, so easy it’s unlikely to unstick your massive writer’s block, I still suggest you give it a shot. Apply this easy-peasy method to a frustrating scene in your novel, a letter of reference that you have to write but don’t really want to, marketing copy, or the currently-awkward outline of your non-fiction book proposal.
I swear by this method to turn my mountainous writer’s block into an easily shifted molehill.
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Mountain illustration from the ANNA.K LENORMAND.